The school of hard knocks

One man’s White Collar Boxing journey, from day one of training, right up to fight night!

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John’s White Collar Boxing Diary…

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Day 14

“Like a lot of things in life, when you put the gloves on, it’s better to give than to receive” – Sugar Ray Leonard

The gloves are on!


This really felt like a monumental shift in training – sure, we started with the usual combo of a few hundred burpees, shadow boxing, press-ups (chinese dragons, polar bears, and bog-standard “normal” ones), as “Lake Lamerton” started to make its usual appearance on the gym floor.


We progressed to work on the various punches via shadow boxing, and Coach Gary showed us a couple of blocks that we could put into action.


“Hang on a minute guys,” says Gary. “Has everyone got gloves with them?”


Cue about forty pairs of eyes lighting up like kids on Christmas morning.


Forty people who had indeed brought their gloves with them, “just in case.”


Including me.


“Those with gloves, go and get ‘em on. Partner up with someone who doesn’t have gloves.”


Yes! This is what we came for – what feels like proper boxing! Gloves on (well, 50% of us do), staring down at your opponent, as opposed to pretending that you’re fighting that imaginary guy in front of you – who never hits back, and doesn’t actually hit you in the mouth.


Not that we’re supposed to be hitting each other in the mouth at this point.


We’re kept a sensible distance apart so that no actual contact occurs. Though my sparring partner Louis and I have a few close shaves:


“Oops, sorry mate!”


 “Argh, sorry I almost caught you there!”


I’m sure we won’t be this polite on fight night, when we’re trying to wallop ten bells of shit out of each other – but for now, we’re here to help each other get better – to perfect our blocks, and then unleash a counter – taking it turns to attack and defend each other.


I thought the cardio warmup was tough – but just throwing weak-ass punches and blocking as though your life doesn’t depend on it is actually really hard work – and the gloves just makes things hotter.


The thought of three, two-minute rounds of really going for it? That’s going to be TOUGH.


Coach Gary shows us the importance of punching with a straight arm rather than bent, and how to unleash a decent counterpunch immediately after a block. He demonstrates this with some “willing” volunteers, including Tom, who is given a new nickname – Meat. (It started as “Chunk”, until Tom pointed out that he’s not exactly carrying much in the way of fat!)


The volunteers get slapped around the face, pushed over, and generally used as crash test dummies.


I shuffle to the back of the room, just in case.


After another few rounds of sparring, Gary announces that he’s going to let us finish early because we’ve worked so hard.


“That won’t happen on fight night, though. If you clock off early on fight night, it ‘ain’t ‘cos you’ve worked hard!”


So, one final finisher (55 polar bears, 55 jabs, 55 chinese dragons, 55 hooks, 55 press-ups, and 55 uppercuts), and we’re on our way.


“Don’t forget your gloves on Thursday!”


Oh, don’t worry… we won’t!

Day 0

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson

 Tale of the tape –

  • 12st 10lb weight
  • 14.1% body fat
  • 23.1 BMI
  • 88cm waist

“We place these bowls all around the side of the gym. They are there for you to be sick into.”

What started as a nice idea ten months earlier, suddenly seems very real. I am going to be training HARD (past the point of vomiting it would appear!) for the next eight weeks, after which I will step into the squared circle, and face off against an as-yet unknown opponent, in an actual boxing match.

I am not a boxer.

I’m a forty-two year old business owner.

I write personal development books for REAL people.

I’m a lover, not a fighter – I’ve never punched another person in my life. I have been the lucky recipient of a black eye courtesy of a sucker punch from a Bristol Rovers fan after my team (Plymouth Argyle) had the nerve to score more goals than his team in a football match.

But even that was twenty years ago.

So how did I end up volunteering to take part in a real boxing match?

It’s all Jason (my business partner)’s fault. We were chatting about various sports, and the mindset and training routines required to be successful – and how we teach the same principles to business owners.

“My Grandad was a boxer”, announces Jase.

“Was he a pedigree, or a mongrel?” I jested.

No, it turns out that Jason’s papa, was a fully fledged, proper, old-school heavyweight boxer. This naturally led to us discussing whether the “punchy” gene had been passed along.

“We should do a white collar boxing event next year”, says Jase.

“Awesome! I love it!! Let’s do it!!”

Now, I have a rule when it comes to committing to things – if it makes it as far as my “goals board” for the year (a collection of images to represent all the things I want to achieve in the coming year), then I will do EVERYTHING in my power to make it happen.

If it’s on my goals list, it’s GOING to happen.

My 2019 goals board includes this little gem:

So here we are, or more accurately, here I am…

Jason has been told in no uncertain terms that he’s not allowed to be punched in the face (he’s far too pretty), so in his place, I’ve roped in Tom Boulden – a Director of Three Sixty Mortgages, one of the companies that we’ve invested in.

Tom’s a VERY driven guy (have a listen to our podcast interview with him here to discover how he dropped to low single digit body fat during a body building challenge a few years ago.

Tom started training 5 weeks ago. He’s already dropped a stone in weight. He’s been coached and has been sparring twice a week. That’s on top of his usual gym routine (7 to 10 sessions a week).

I’ve spent today eating cake, pizza and chocolate.

I’ve got an excuse – it’s my birthday. (I did mention I was 42, didn’t I?)

But no matter – I’m in training for a fight now.

The fight of my life.

Tom and I went along to the registration evening tonight for the Plymouth Ultra White Collar Boxing, to see the guys and girls we’re going to be training alongside, one of whom we’ll ultimately be stepping into the ring with.

Tom said after the meeting that he’d sized up the room – “I could have him; I’d love to fight him; that guy would be a great challenge.”

I too sized up my competitors..

“Don’t want to fight him; If he looks like that now, what’s he going to look like after 8 weeks of training; Can’t I fight one of the girls?; Not that one though – she could snap me in half!”

But it’s real now.

It’s happening.

There’s no backing out.

I just hope they’ve got plenty of sick bowls around the place…

Day 2

“80% of life is just showing up” – Woody Allen.

So this is it. Day one of training for the Plymouth UWCB.

In eight short weeks, I’ll be stepping into the ring with one of my fellow trainees, and punching seven bells of shit out of each other, all in the name of charity.

The road starts here.

There’s just one slight problem. I’m on a different road.

I’m on the M6, heading north to a business event in Chester, some 286 miles away from training in Plymouth. This was booked in my diary months before, and is one of my “immovable objects” (you’ll be hearing plenty more about these dear reader over the next few months), so reluctantly, I send a message to Andy, our rep from Ultra Events:

“Hi Andy – I’m away on business on Thursday, so can’t make the first training session (Don’t worry, I’m not a snowflake!) – Shall I arrive early next Tuesday to bring the forms, and get weighed etc?”

I felt the need to explain my lack of snowflake-ness to Andy, as I’m sure he gets shedloads of people who “fancy having a go at boxing” register for UWCB, only to disappear without a trace after the registration meeting (the mere mention of the sick bowls might be a reason!).

From my day job coaching small business owners, I know that most people just don’t do what they say they’re going to do. Sure, they’ve got the best of intentions, but when given a choice of Netflix in the warm, or sweating your arse off in the gym to the point of vomming… well, they take the easy path every time.

I pride myself on NOT being like that.

I’m NOT a snowflake.

I DO what I say I’m going to do.

I’ve looked at my diary for the next eight weeks, and worked out that I’m going to miss a total of four training sessions, out of a possible sixteen.

And I’ll make those four up, outside of the set hours myself.

I’m going to do the work.

I felt the need to explain this to Andy (in one sentence), and now to you, dear reader with many more words – because if you don’t know me, then what have you read on this blog so far?

That I’ve been stuffing myself with pizza and cake, and done zero training whatsoever.

But that’s me when I’m not in training for a boxing match.

In my book Routine Machine, I talk about the biggest impact for change being “going from ‘zero’ to ‘one’, from ‘off’ to ‘on’.”

On Day 0, I was this guy:

And on Day 1, I’m in training for a fight. The transformation will take a while before I look like this:

But like the Hitman, I’m either training, or I’m not.

And now I am.

My diet’s been spot on since Day 1 (yes, I know that’s only yesterday!) – my meals have mainly looked like this:

… and this…

And there hasn’t been a cheesecake, or pizza in sight. I’ve done a couple of HIIT sessions, and feel good going into my first “proper” training

You see, I’m a Routine Machine – that’s my secret weapon. Once I decide to do something, I will do it. I make a plan, and I stick to the plan. I’m gonna out-consistent everyone else.

Others will go harder. Others will put in more hours. But no-one’s going to be more consistent over the next two months than the “King of Routine”!

Because I’m a boxer in training.

I just haven’t actually done any training yet…

Day 3

“One ‘oh shit’ can erase a thousand ‘attaboys!” – Scott Adams.

Still in Chester, I message Tom to find out how training went last night:

“Yeah it was good. Didn’t do any boxing at all, just pure fitness training. The good news is you can catch up.over the weekend. You just need to do about 200 burpees, 200 squats, 200 press ups, 200 crunches, 200 leg raisers and 200 tuck jumps lol ???????????? it was so painful”

Oh shit.

Day 5

“I sat in a garage and invented the future” – Steve Jobs.

Clearly, I’ve got some catching up to do – so on a chilly Sunday morning, I head into my garage, move the kids bikes and various half-used tins of paint that we’ve kept “just in case” we ever need the same colour we painted the living room twenty years ago, and start a workout on my trusty punchbag.

It’s a Lonsdale Omniflex Free standing punch bag, which I’d bought a few years earlier as part of a fitness drive (my only previous experience of boxing being on the Nintendo Wii). It’s held up very well over the years, mainly due to the lack of use, I’m sure!

I do a 24-minute HIIT session, consisting of the following routine:

45 second warm up.

Interval 1 – Jabs and crosses

Interval 2 – Body work

Interval 3 – Right crosses

Interval 4 – Left crosses

Interval 5 – Freestyle

Interval 6 – Jabs and crosses

Interval 7 – Body work

Interval 8 – Right crosses

Interval 9 – Left crosses

Interval 10 – Freestyle

Set 1 is 20 seconds work, 20 seconds rest.

1 minute rest between sets.

Set 2 is 25 seconds work, 15 seconds rest.

1 minute rest between sets.

Set 3 is 30 seconds work, 10 seconds rest.

And “relax” – this is an intense cardio workout, and (I’m hoping) will prepare me somewhat for the training proper in two days time. I intend continuing with the garage workouts on the weekends, when there’s no official training (which is Tuesday and Thursday evenings.)

Day 7

“Welcome to the party, pal!” – John McLean, Die Hard.

“It doesn’t matter what your fitness level is – I will find it, and I will break you.”

Welcome to “proper” training. I thought I was pretty fit going into this – I knew that I’m not the strongest person, but my cardio fitness is pretty good, and with my go-to exercise being HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), I expected to be able to cope quite well with the cardio demands of training.

Within five minutes of starting, I knew I was wrong.

We were introduced to polar bear press-ups, chinese dragon press-ups, crucifix lunges, squats, squat jumps…

Oh, and burpees.

Lots of burpees.

Maybe 100 burpees?

Before long, I was swimming in a pool of my own sweat (which isn’t nice when you’re trying to do polar bear push ups, which involve your feet sliding all over the place as you plant your face into the pool of sweat using your shoulder muscles.

The training starts at 8:30pm, which gives you a bit of a dilemma – to eat, or not to eat? Eating afterwards (gone 10pm) is way too late for me. I’d usually eat around 7pm, but that’s far too close to training for my liking – I’d more than likely be making full use of the sick bowls if I eat at that time!

I opted for a nice light “chicken and broccoli” combo, which I ate just after 6pm – two and a half hours before training.

By the time 8:30pm rolled around, I was wishing I’d given it another half hour. Still at least I had a load of burpees to take my mind off the full-feeling!

After a brutal workout, we started to look at some of the basic technique that we’ll be needing to step into the squared circle on November 23rd. The correct stance; jabs and hooks; and a little shadow boxing.

All of which confirmed one thing – I’d been doing it wrong all these years.

Who knew that boxing on the Wii, and bashing a punchbag in your garage is no substitute for proper coaching?

Well, I do now.

Just as we were starting to enjoy a little training that involved pretending we were Rocky and throwing some punches, moving around the gym floating like bees and stinging like butterflies, it was time to stop.

And do some more burpees.

Followed by 100 star jumps.

And then finally…

“We’re finishing with 40 situps. Once you’ve done 40, do 30. Once you’ve done 30, do 20. Once you’ve done 20, do 10. For those who can’t count, that’s 100 sit ups – let’s go!”

So how was my first training session?

It was hard. Very hard. One of (if not) the hardest workouts I’ve ever done. But I can do hard. As I said, my cardio fitness isn’t too bad.

But technique? Oh deary me.

My feet don’t appear to be connected to my brain in any way. A simple box-drill routine (two steps forward, two to the right, two back, two to the left left me slipping in my own sweat, and tripping over my clown feet.

“You won’t be able to look at your feet during the fight.” said one of the coaches to me. “I hope to be a bit better by then!” I responded.

I was worried that training was going to be really tough – and it was. But I’m fine with that now.

My worry right now is that I have zero boxing ability. And whilst I still “hope to be a bit better” by fight night, I’ve seen no sign that that will be the case.

Day 8

“Everyone is ready to win, few are prepared” – Jim Garrett.

The morning after the night before.

Today was an admin day. The VIP tables for our fight went on sale – I’d heard that they tend to get snapped up pretty quickly, and with around 80 people in our group, I wanted to make sure that we had room for all the friends and family who’d like to come and watch me be punched in the face.

To take part in an UWCB event (and qualify for the eight weeks free training), you have to commit to:

Selling at least 20 tickets to fight night.
Raising at least £50 for Cancer Research UK
Attending at least 50% of the training sessions

The VIP tables cost £400, for ten people. Standard tickets cost £25 per person.

Your UWCB rep will sell you a book of ten tickets, which you can then resell to your friends. Once you’ve sold two books of ten, you can buy individual tickets from your rep.

Alternatively, you can buy tickets from the UWCB website in any denomination – just make sure that any friends and family who buy tickets put your name down as the “who are you coming to watch?” question – otherwise the sales won’t be tracked to you, and you’ll still have to sell another 20!

For me, the easiest option was to take two VIP tables, paid for through my small business coaching business, which means we can entertain clients, prospects, family and friends – and “sell” those tickets in exchange for a donation to Cancer Research UK. Everybody wins! (Well, I might not on the night, but everyone else wins!)

When you register for White Collar Boxing, you’ll get a welcome pack at the registration event, and a link to set up a Just Giving page – this enables you to post links on social media etc to get sponsorship from your friends, and have it all tracked to you – both so UWCB know that you’ve met your minimum £50 sponsorship requirement, and also so that the highest fundraiser for each event can be recognised for their efforts.

So what equipment do you need for White Collar Boxing?

You’ll need:
16oz boxing gloves
Hand wraps
Mouth guard
Men will need a box/jockstrap

UWCB will provide the following on fight night:
A vest (red or blue), with your name printed on the back (you can add a company logo for £50)
Head guard*

A note on head guards – we were told at the welcome meeting that we would need to buy them for sparring in training, but that UWCB would provide official ones on fight night. At the next session though, we were told that we wouldn’t need head guards for training as “you won’t be practising headshots in sparring”.

I’ll update this, dear reader as I know more!

Optional extras (for those who want to really look the part!):
Boxing shorts
Boxing boots
Boxing gown

Here’s everything I’ve bought to take part (I’ve linked to the exact products below)


Day 9

“Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club.

It started as a tingle last night. A little tightness in my glutes. An aching down my side. I knew what was coming, but hoped that I would sleep it off.


DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) was here. And on a training day too. Oh goody gumdrops…

I message Tom and let him know.

I manage to make it through the day without the need for Ibruprofen, grab an early light meal (beetroot and coconut soup), which I’ve finished well before 6pm – lesson learnt!

And I needn’t have worried – there wasn’t a burpee in sight at tonight’s training.

There was still a world of pain, but no burpees.

Just sit ups, leg raises, flutter kicks, planks, spiderman press ups, v-sits, knee-highs, jumping jacks, crunches and a handful of other torture devices exercises – around 25 of each.

Once again, I became a one-man island, surrounded by a body of water consisting mainly of my own sweat.

And then it was time to do some boxing (before I was washed away in a tidal wave of perspiration).

We went through the box drill from last time, and I was pleased to note that I “got it” a bit better this time – only needing to look at my feet three or seven times rather than every time. I could mix in the jabs and crosses.

Coach Montana showed us hooks, and we worked that into the routine.

I was just getting my head around the difference between jabs, hooks and crosses when he announced we were now going to move onto uppercuts. Eek! Slow down mate, I’ve only just learned how to get my feet to go in the direction I want – I can’t handle another thing to think about!

Thankfully, Montana did slow down, and showed us exactly how to do the uppercut correctly, and we focused entirely on this – which after some very useful intervention from Coach Tom (“use your hips mate”), I suddenly realised – this is the same thing that Coach Ian (my golf coach) keeps telling me about my golf swing!

So I imagine I’m lining up on the first tee, take a practice swing, and… “not bad mate. Next time try not to hold an imaginary golf club”

I “get” uppercuts standing still. So we add in some footwork to this. It’s slow, clumsy, ineffective and clunky, but still definite progress from “Bambi on ice” last time.

And then Montana asks us to throw it ALL together – Jab, cross, uppercut, jab, uppercut, hook (I’ve probably got the order of that completely wrong – I certainly did in the gym!) – Sometimes it felt right, most times it didn’t – but again, I can see (and feel) progress.

And that’s what I want.

It’s what I coach business owners to do.

Constant, never-ending progress.

Identify where you are now.

Work out where you want to be.

Figure out a plan to get there.

Do the work.

It’s that simple.

But it’s not easy…

Speaking of “not easy”, it’s time for the finisher – our last 5 mins of cardio before being released.

“We’ll have to tweak it a bit ‘cos the floors really sweaty tonight”

Can’t think whose fault that is… *whistles*

So we finish with a nice 5 minute plank.

Not 5 solid minutes you understand – oh no, we get to break up the plank with some press ups, spiderman planks, leg raises and flutter kicks. Joy of joy!

You know when your star striker misses an open goal, and there’s a collective from the crowd? That’s the only way I can the “aaaaaaauuuurrrrrgggggggghhhhhhh” noise that comes from a room of 75 blokes and a handful of women all holding a plank for those last thirty seconds.

Especially when Montana told us there was only ten seconds left..

10, 9, 8…

7, 6, 5…

4 and a half…









Cue 80 people collapsing on the floor, in puddles of (thankfully no longer just my) sweat.

As our UWCB rep Andy posted on Facebook “You’d think it would get easier through the weeks too…nope! Gets harder, but you get better.”


I can live with that.

Day 11

“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.”

Tale of the tape – 

  • 12st 9lb weight (-1lb)
  • 14.0% body fat (-0.1%)
  • 22.9 BMI (-0.2)
  • 87cm waist (-1cm)



All that work, for a one-pound loss? One centimetre less around the belly? A bodyfat percentage reduction so tiny you’d demand a recount?


This right here is why people don’t stick at things that are hard.


You do the hard work now, but you get the results later down the line.


It’s exactly what I expected.


It’s exactly what I wrote about in Routine Machine (my bestselling book on using the power of daily habits and routines to guarantee yourself results):


“When people see success, they see the money, the fame, and the talent. They don’t see the discipline, the failures, or the sacrifice. They don’t see the persistence, the disappointments, the hard work, and the dedication.


They see the effect, but not the cause….


Smoking a cigarette probably won’t kill you. 


Smoking 20 cigarettes probably won’t kill you. 


Smoke 20 a day for 40 years, though, and there’s a pretty good chance that it will kill you.


What you did yesterday doesn’t matter. What you do today doesn’t matter. What you do tomorrow doesn’t matter. 


What you do every day matters. What you do routinely matters.


It’s ironic that all these things that create success in the long term don’t actually appear to be making one iota of difference in the short term. By the time you get the feedback from the changes, you’ve already done the hard work and the new routine is ingrained.


The “secret” to becoming a Routine Machine is knowing you’re doing the right things. Even when you don’t get instant feedback or instant gratification, you know that as long as you keep doing what you’re doing you will get the results. Just keep on the path and keep following the signposts.


It will take as long as it will take. But you know – you just know – that if you keep packing on the snow and keep rolling it down the hill of time, you are going to end up with a massive snowball at the end of it.”


And so it is with my UWCB training – by the time I see the results I want in terms of my “tale of the tape” measurements, I’ll have already done almost all of the work.


I know – I know that I’m on the right path. I know that as long as I stay on the path and do the work, I’ll get the results I want. And I know that there’s always a delay between doing the work, and getting the results.


When you know what to expect, you just follow the signs.


This way to results…

(ps. You can download a free chapter of Routine Machine here…)

View the latest entry – Click me

"Two normal blokes from Plymouth" John and Jason have been working together, building businesses for over two decades!

They're the anti-gurus with a strong dislike of psuedo business psycho-babble. Their no-nonsense, straightforward approach with relateable and valuable advice has won them followers from all over the world. They've helped hundreds of business owners improve their businesses and lives.

The King of Can-do and the 'Lazy' Entrepreneur have a mountain of knowledge they're happy to share.

John released his first book “Big Ideas… for Small Businesses” in 2017, and it shot straight to the #1 bestseller list for Small Business and Entrepreneurship on Amazon, outselling books by Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and Duncan Bannatyne combined.

Since then, it’s sold thousands and thousands of copies all over the world, and attracted more than 100 five-star reviews. But more importantly, it’s changed the lives of small business owners all over the world, who now understand that running a lifestyle business isn’t a bad thing.

I think you’ll like it…

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Plymouth, PL7 1ZN